Gov. Greg Abbott has suspended most non-emergent elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties in response to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.
“These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19, and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients,” Governor Abbott said in a statement.
The executive order, which goes into effect at 11:59 pm Friday, is not as restrictive as one Abbott enacted in March that prohibited all Texas physicians from performing elective surgeries at all facilities statewide.
For example, today’s order does not affect outpatient clinics or ambulatory surgery centers.
It also does not apply to certain “medically necessary” surgeries and procedures or “any surgery or procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete any hospital capacity needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.”
“Today’s order is an appropriate use of the governor’s authority to ensure Texas hospitals have the beds, staff, and resources that physicians need to care for our most seriously ill patients – whether with COVID-19, other diseases, or significant trauma,” Texas Medical Association President Diana Fite, MD, said in a statement. “It’s important to note that the governor did not reissue the same broad order he first put in place on March 22 and rescinded on April 21. This is critical because we cannot revisit a time when our patients got sicker because physicians had so few options to provide needed care.”
The order will remain in effect “until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor. The governor may by proclamation add to or subtract from the list of counties covered by this prohibition.”
Governor Abbott also today suspended any further phases to open Texas, which began May 1. “Businesses that are permitted to open under the previous phases can continue to operate at the designated occupancy levels and under the minimum standard health protocols provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services,” Governor Abbott said in a statement.
At a press conference earlier this week, Governor Abbott acknowledged the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations, and implored Texans to continue to wear masks, continue safe hand hygiene, and to continue social distancing practices.
“To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled,” he said at a Capitol press conference Monday.
According to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), 4,389 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals statewide on June 24. That is more than double the number of hospitalizations (1,756) reported June 1.
During that time, the number of new cases statewide has increased from 593 to 5,551, DSHS numbers show.
Although DSHS’ website does not report hospitalization data for specific counties, it does have daily hospitalization data for the state’s trauma service areas (TSAs).
According to daily hospitalization data from June 1 to June 24:
- San Antonio TSA, which includes Bexar County, climbed from 101 to 549;
- Houston TSA, which includes Harris County, climbed from 482 to 1,343;
- Dallas-Fort Worth TSA climbed from 580 to 1,130; and
- Austin TSA, which includes Travis County, climbed from 89 to 274.
In a statement Wednesday, Dr. Fite reminded Texas physicians to continue to use best practices in treating COVID-19 statewide, including “work[ing] closely with our hospitals to schedule admissions and procedures for those patients who need them the most.”
TMA also urges all Texans who need medical care to not delay contacting a physician or hospital.
“As I stated yesterday, all of us – physicians, hospital administrators, all Texans – need to share this simple message, over and over, with our patients, our friends, our family, the news media, and elected officials: Wash your hands often. Stay home if you can. Practice social distancing. And for your sake, for your neighbors’ sake, for my sake, and for your grandma’s sake, wear a mask, Texas,” Dr. Fite said today.